Haulier Ronan Hughes Pleads Guilty To Manslaughter For Essex Lorry Deaths
Haulier Ronan Hughes, 40, has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of the people who were found dead in a container in Essex last October.
Hughes, of Co Armagh in Northern Ireland, entered his plea at the Old Bailey, where he was charged with 39 counts of manslaughter.
According to the BBC, the haulage boss has been described as the 'ringleader' of the human trafficking operation.
The 39 victims - 31 men and eight women, including some aged as young as 15 - were discovered early on the morning of Wednesday 23 October 2019 on an industrial estate in Essex.
They were inside a container on the back of a lorry, which had arrived from Zeebrugge, Belgium.
An inquest heard that the victims, who were Vietnamese nationals, died due to asphyxia (a lack of oxygen) and hyperthermia (overheating) in an enclosed space.
The family of one victim, Pham Thi Tra My, had texted her mum to say she was 'dying' while she was travelling in a lorry, telling her parents that she couldn't breathe.
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A second defendant, Eamonn Harrison, 23, of Mayobridge, Co Down, Northern Ireland, today denied the manslaughter charges, along with involvement in the people smuggling plot.
Earlier this year, the lorry's driver, Maurice 'Mo' Robinson, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of the 39 people.
Robinson, 25, from Craigavon in Northern Ireland, entered his plea at the Old Bailey in April, having previously admitted plotting to assist illegal immigration.
At the time of Robinson's charge, Essex Police issued a statement which read: "The Crown Prosecution service has authorised Essex Police to charge a man in connection with the investigating [sic] the deaths of 39 people whose bodies were found in Grays on Wednesday.
"Maurice Robinson, 25, of Laurel Drive, Craigavon, Northern Ireland was arrested shortly after the discovery was made at the Waterglade Retail Park. He is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court on Monday 28 October charged with 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.
"Three other people have been arrested in connection with this investigation. A 38 year-old man and a 38 year-old woman from Warrington and a 48 year-old man from Northern Ireland, who were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic people and manslaughter remain in custody."
Featured Image Credit: Essex Police
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